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Death Row Inmate Should Get New Trial After False Testimony by Tarrant Medical Examiner: Judge

NBC Dallas logo NBC Dallas 4/6/2021 Scott Gordon
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A man who was sentenced to death in a 2004 Fort Worth murder case should get a new trial because of false and misleading testimony by Tarrant County Medical Examiner Dr. Nizam Peerwani, a judge has ruled.

In a 51-page finding, Tarrant County District Court Judge Mollee Westfall said Peerwani made “false, inaccurate or misleading” statements in at least 10 crucial elements of the prosecution case.

The timing of the judge's ruling is remarkable because Peerwani recently placed his longtime former top deputy, Dr. Marc Krouse, on administrative leave after an audit of 40 death investigations last year found he made 59 mistakes. Krouse was barred from conducting autopsies in homicide cases in November.

The Dallas County District Attorney is investigating Krouse’s work after the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office recused itself.

Krouse is set to leave the medical examiner's office later this month.

The defendant in the death penalty case, Tilon Lashon Carter, was convicted in 2006 for the murder and home invasion robbery of 89-year-old James Tomlin after Peerwani offered key testimony during the trial.

Westfall focused largely on Peerwani’s testimony that the victim was suffocated, which Peerwani later acknowledged was just a possibility and may not have happened at all, according to the judge's finding.

Peerwani also failed to disclose that he found a pacemaker in Tomlin’s chest during his autopsy, which could have suggested he died of a cardiac issue instead of a respiratory one, the judge said.

The judge also said Peerwani confused the terms abrasion and contusion and gave faulty testimony about teeth marks on the victim's lips, concluding in the trial that the marks were evidence of suffocation, but admitting at a hearing later that that wasn't necessarily the case.

“There is at least a reasonable likelihood that the false testimony could have affected the judgment of the jury,” the judge said.

Westfall’s ruling that Carter should get a new trial is a recommendation to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which will make the final decision.

Peerwani said it would be inappropriate for him to comment on the case since he may have to testify again in a second trial.

Carter’s attorney, Michael Ware, also declined to comment.

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